There’s this idea going around a (small and generally self-congratulatory) circle of people that in order to be “good skeptics” or “good freethinkers,” we must somehow doubt Rebecca Watson’s story about being propositioned in an elevator in the middle of the night at a conference after making it clear that this was not what she wanted. The idea that this would ever happen is somehow an extraordinary claim that requires signed, notarized affidavits or somesuch.
The problem with that line of argument is that there is nothing at all uncommon about guys who behave that way, as this report from this year’s World Fantasy Convention can attest.
I was very sad to show up to their quartet after they’d spent quite some time talking about rape culture. But when the obligatory offensive, too drunk guy came up to harass us – I kid you not, he presented himself to the five of us with “give a woman a compliment and she will sleep with you every time” or something equivalent – he was met first with silence, then polite suggestions he should go to bed and then, “you know, we don’t HAVE to put up with this, please leave” and finally Jonathan gently removed him from our group after Kirstyn nearly punched him in the head after very firmly telling him to leave because he was bothering us.
It was sort of fascinating to watch that he both thought he was deeply attractive (Deb and I were giggling about how even if we hadn’t had sex for 10 years we wouldn’t do it) and also that he had some right to continue standing in our group, harassing us, being offensive and ruining our otherwise enjoyable night. And when told that he actually wasn’t charming or appealing and that in fact he was bothering us, he got more stubborn and more determined that he would only leave on his own terms. Eventually Jonathan got him to move to the other side of the patio but he did yell out at us 15 minutes later “I’m still he-re.” Like it was some principle of his freedom and had no idea that he was more than quashing our own right to stand in our own space and not be harassed or that we even had the right to choose who *we* wanted to talk to. He had become the victim in his own mind. But eventually, Chris and Jonathan escorted him off the premises. It was both a very beautiful moment and also deeply sad because he left because two big guys showed him the door and not because five women had asked him politely, and then more bluntly, to leave us alone.
It wasn’t the first time that’s happened to me or to women around me. It wasn’t even the first time this week that’s happened to me. But it’s fascinating how some men behave that way, completely oblivious to the concept that women should be able to stand in their own group at a party and not be forced into being propositioned for sex or be forced to have to talk to men they don’t want to and that they also have the right to be able to tell them not to bother them and that they should respect that, whether they want to or not. Like, the idea that our experience of the situation was unimportant, even irrelevant to him, and that he would have pressed the point, had he not had another male remove him from the situation. It wasn’t harmless in that he quite clearly told one of us that if she didn’t tell him her correct name, he was going to feel her breasts. And he moved in to kiss her without her permission or any encouragement or invitation. We were mostly in a situation where it could be taken care of. But honestly? What’s that guy like in a room alone with a woman? That’s what we were asking ourselves.
Not even the first time this week. Or do we need affidavits for that too?
Of course, that isn’t the skeptic movement. That’s one of them geek conventions, where them people with no social skills hang out, right?
No, actually. Those people with no social skills are us, the movement that started screaming that Rebecca was ruining skepticism and atheism by saying, “Guys, don’t do that.” The F&SF geeks have been quite supportive of Alisa. The Tweets and comments aimed at her are uniformly positive, which is a joy to see.
Pity our group can’t be as civilized as the folks who wander around wearing swords, isn’t it?